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Part guide book, part cultural museum, part love letter, Good News Hackney tells the story of the London Borough of Hackney in the 21st Century as it hurtles head first into the future while still dragging the past behind it.

The photographs and headlines in this book capture a day in the life of special slice of London. There are no people here, just the marks they leave behind on impassive city that could not care less.

For the past seven years, Good News Hackney has been affectionately satirising, cataloguing and chronicling the weird and wonderful sights that make Hackney, Hackney.

At once ostentatious and flash, modest and effortless, Hackney is a place where the past competes for space with the future, the very rich rub up against the very poor and the rest of us endure the ‘very cool’ in a warren of ancient streets. All life is here, standing on the wrong side of the escalator FaceTiming their annoying mate.

To some extent, it has always been like this. Stretching from the digital highlands of ‘Tech City’ to the ancient mists of the Lea Valley marshes, Hackney has always been a place of extremes. But today more than ever the people that built the cultures so readily commoditised by flash media men and soulless developers are under extraordinary pressure. As always Hackney carries on in the face of relentless turbocharged change and a seemingly endless onslaught new neighbours, often oblivious to their own insensitivity.

Hackney is the front line of gentrification. London is changing fast and if you take the time to notice the obvious you can learn a lot about the city it was, and the sometimes unrecognisable place it is becoming.

This is a coffee table book for people who wish they had room for a coffee table. Funny, sad, confusing and intriguing, Good News Hackney presents a series of pathetic, hilarious and touchingly optimistic juxtapositions found on the streets of North East London, framing them through the prism of a decade of hyperbolic Hackney Gazette headlines.

This is the London Borough of Hackney in all of its chaotic confusing glory: parodied to the point of obliteration; crowned the 'coolest neighbourhood on earth’ by Vogue, 'worst town in Britain' Channel 4 and ‘least affordable place to live’ by the Office for National Statistics.

Like all truly great things, Hackney is complicated and best looked at up close. A riddle wrapped in a mystery stuck inside an old pizza box lying in the gutter outside a £1.5million one bedroom flat. This is the London Borough of Hackney in all of its chaotic confusing glory.

Then: A freshly minted 24 year old resident of Hackney and naive economic migrant.

Now: Jaded mega cynic who has less than no time for your bullshit, Hackney.

When I told friends I was moving to the Hackney they reacted in one of two ways. Half told me that I was going to live among the very worst type of awful, offensive, self-regarding hipsters, they had always known I was an arsehole and that I was richly deserving of my awful fate. The rest of my friends, from the world beyond London, simply shook their head, exhaled sharply and told me bluntly that I would be dead in six months, a victim of a terrible and bloody crime that would not even make the nightly news.

Clearly Hackney had something of a reputation, or lots of different reputations.

But I had no idea about any of this, I just wanted to move to London.

And so it was that I came to live in Homerton, a corner of the London Borough of Hackney; a small triangle squeezed up against the Hackney Marshes of legend and myth. It was just unfashionable enough (at the time), to be affordable and seemed to be a kind of high ground, protected from the rising tide of gentrification that was sweeping up from dickhead mecca London Fields. How bad can it be, I thought?

On day one, like any conscientious new resident I made a beeline to my local 24 hour lager and tobacco emporium to pick up those items and a copy of the esteemed local rag, the Hackney Gazette (est 1864).

That’s where this story really begins, with a single headline.

NOWHERE LEFT TO BURY THE DEAD

It was screaming out from the submarine yellow news boards that appear every fifty yards along the road. Such an apocalyptic headline, broadcast at full volume across the borough must refer to some terrible tragedy, I thought.

The sensationally violent imagery of a London borough groaning under the weight of so many corpses. The use of the term ‘the dead’ evoking the plague and the lilting cart of Black Death victims bumping through the streets of 14th century London. Most worryingly, what killed all these people, why is everyone dying?

I added the said newspaper to my battered shopping basket with more than a little concern.
In the end, the story was something of a disappointment. Not the medieval bloodbath I had imagined, but a rather mundane piece on municipal zoning causing a delay to a new council graveyard. I binned the paper, lamenting the sensationalism of the shouty headline.

But the headline stayed with me. Over the years, I developed an unspoken affinity for the anonymous headline writer and their black sense of humour.

I started to take photos of those headlines in 2010, just because I thought someone should. That led me to develop a keen eye for the odd and unusual. I didn't realise at the time, but I was capturing a borough going through a fraught reckoning with itself.

Good News Hackney is part guide book, part diary, part love letter and part therapy for a city under pressure.

"It is not the walls that make the city, but the people who live within them. The walls of London may battered but the spirit of the Londoner stands resolute.”

So tweeted proto-hipster King George VI back in the 1930s, as he took a trip to the recently opened Beigel Shop on Brick Lane. Even then the queue was massive. We wonder what the King would have made of the London Borough of Hackney in the 21st Century, where the battered walls are covered with subversive street art, QR codes and adverts for blindfold yoga, the air is thick with fragrant electric vape smoke and the streets are paved with GOLD (GOLD Lager 5.6% abv 4x500ml. £5.25).

The sad fact is that ol’ King George was wrong, the walls DO make a city. Good News Hackney can tell a lot about people from the marks they make on London’s battered walls and the traces they leave behind as they try get by in by in this cruel, dark and impassive city.

But we don’t care about the other Boroughs, frankly. We don’t even maintain diplomatic relations with most of them. We're about God’s own borough, the London Borough of Hackney.

And what a place! An absolute mess and a compelling one at that. A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an old chicken box lying in the gutter outside a £1.5million one bedroom flat.

Looking at London from a distance, as most people do, you can only comprehend it as a whole. A single unit. Like the moon, or the seed at the centre of an overpriced avocado.

Up close that you can see the rough edges, the stitching and the glue that holds it all together. That is what this book is about.

London is famously a patchwork of swallowed up towns and villages. A ghostly geographic legacy of ancient market squares, graveyards and village greens are a confusing backdrop for modern living, and every part of London had its own character and idiosyncrasies. But nobody tells you that. You move to London. Singular.

Hackney, a chaotic slice of London where 250,000 people from 100 countries, are crammed into less than 20 square kilometres of churning pulsing modern metropolis. This is an overwhelming, esoteric and unknowable place, overflowing with culture and subculture, history tumbling from the cupboards, legends sloshing around your feet. At once ostentatious and flash, modest and effortless, Hackney is a place where the past competes for space with the future, the rich rub up against the poor and the rest of us endure the ‘cool’ people in a warren of ancient streets. All life is here, standing on the wrong side of the escalator FaceTiming their annoying mate.

This is a unique book. What began seven years ago a hobby to archive bizarre local news headlines evolved into a collaborative photography project with hundreds of contributors, millions of visits and dubious awards such as the ‘best London blog’ from the Guardian.

Part guide book, part cultural museum, part love letter, Good News Hackney tells the story of the London Borough of Hackney in the 21st Century as it hurtles head first into the future while still dragging the past behind it.

There are no people here, just the marks they leave behind on a city that could not care less.

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